In “Leading educational transformation in Asia: Sustaining the knowledge society,” recently published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Alma Harris, Michelle Jones, Sailesh Sharma, and Sathiamoorthy Kannan explore the role of professional learning communities and professional collaboration in developing and sustaining the knowledge society. In this post, Harris, currently the Director of the Institute of Educational Leadership at the University of Malaya, briefly describes how several different countries are approaching work on professional collaboration at scale, some of the issues currently being debated, and what to look out for in the next few years.
Professional collaboration is increasingly being used in various countries to raise the performance of teachers and to improve student achievement and outcomes. Different countries are inevitably approaching this in their own way but the common denominator factor is inter-dependent professional learning. In some countries, like Singapore, Wales, Finland, and parts of Canada (e.g. Ontario), professional collaboration, in the form of professional learning communities, is a mandated part of the school reform process supported at the Ministerial level. In other countries such as Russia, Australia and Malaysia, professional collaboration is being promoted as a means of improving teacher quality and maintaining the highest standards but is not yet a national expectation.
The debates about professional collaboration range from discussions about the best models to follow, about the time and resources available to support these activities, and the issue of impact. It is important that countries investing in professional collaboration see a return on their investment in terms of better learning and better teaching.
In the next few years, it will be important to look out for how countries that engage in collaborative professional learning fare in international comparisons of educational performance like PISA, PERLS and TIMMs. Looking at high performing systems like Finland,Ontario, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore, that all invest in collaborative and focused professional learning, it would suggest that this is a potentially important and powerful lever of educational change and improvement.